Haggle! Get BT, Sky or Virgin Media for less
Watching new customers nab hundreds of pounds in vouchers or half price broadband for a year can be a little galling if you're paying full whack for the same thing.
But loyal customers can also bag a bargain.
Big providers like Sky, BT and Virgin Media hate losing customers to rivals and will often go a long way to preserve your valuable custom.
It's just a question of haggling the price down and, in this guide, we show you how.
If haggling doesn't get the result you want, cancelling and signing up as a new customer, either with your current ISP or elsewhere, is also an option: skip down the page here for more on what's available.
The rewards for haggling
Most of us wouldn't be able to recall the last occasion on which we partook in the monetary dance that is haggling, although the rewards can be great.
Some customers have reported savings of over £150 a year.
Many people also nab, to name just a few:
- Free services such as premium movie channels.
- Free HD set top boxes.
- Free repair of faulty set top boxes that are out of warranty.
- Free installation of new services.
- Better broadband. For example, double the download allowance for free.
Tempted? Thought so.
How to negotiate
There are five basic ways to approach the call to customer services.
1. Cut out services, cut costs
At the moment my package is XYZ and costs £X amount each month. I don't really watch channels AB and C any more. Can you remove them to make my package better suit my needs?"
This approach is pretty straightforward: if you're paying for something you're not using or could do without, get rid of it and pay less.
Ideal candidates for ditching are premium movie or sports channels, multi-room subscriptions and HD offers.
Problems can arise if you're attempting to knock down the price within the first year of your contract, especially if you received a special price or special offer when signing up, but even then it's not impossible.
It's also worth noting that once you've got rid of a number of premium services it becomes more likely that Freeview will offer the same or almost the same services as pay TV much more cheaply.
2. Add in services, cut costs
I have my broadband with you but my phone line with BT. If I paid line rental to you how much would I pay overall?"
Less obviously, taking a number of services from one provider could mean a lower overall price.
Take care to check the details before signing up. Moving home phone provider, for example, may not be worthwhile if you end up paying for more calls because you get fewer inclusive minutes as part of the contract.
It's worth taking a look, if you go this route, of looking at specific existing customer upgrade offers.
For example, those who already have Sky TV can sign up online to one of the following 'upgrade' offers when they take broadband or fibre broadband.
|Offer||You get||Additional price|
|£25 M&S voucher||Broadband Unlimited
Fibre broadband Unlimited
|£7.50 a month for standard
£20 a month for fibre
If you were thinking about taking another service it might also make sense to do it through an upgrade offer, or haggle, rather than just adding it, when the standard price is likely to apply.
Here are just three of the current upgrade offers:
|Offer||You get||Additional price|
|£10 cash when you upgrade to Sky Sports||£10 credited to your bill||The sports pack is £22 extra a month||Visit Sky|
|Six months half price Sky Movies||Sky Movies for less, give a months notice to cancel||£8 or £4 (if you have Sports pack)
£16 or £8 after six months
|Two month free trial of Sky Go Extra||Free trial (note this service is free anyway if you have Multiroom)||Free for 2 months,
These deals do change and there are also other offers available, so if you're a Sky customer, keep an eye on Sky's existing customer offers page here for more.
3. Offer to pay upfront
Similarly, many providers allow customers to pay upfront for line rental.
If yours does, you're paying full price and you don't mind getting tied in for a year, you can save. Find out more here.
4. The guilt trip
I've seen a deal for new customers offering XYZ and there is also a deal with a rival provider offering ZYX which is very similar. I've been a loyal customer for X years now and would like to stay with you could you offer me something along those lines?"
Turns out, TV, broadband and phone providers get jealous.
Consider the following scenario:
A family of four with three Sky boxes, one HD+ box in living room and two normal boxes in bedrooms want to upgrade both the bedroom boxes to HD+. They call Sky who say it'll cost £400.
The family phone Virgin Media who offer to install V+ HD in all rooms for £100. So they ring back Sky and tell them about Virgin. Surprise surprise Sky reduce their first offer from £400 to just £60.
It's a bit of a ridiculous malarkey to go through but it really does work.
5. The cancellation threat
I'd like to cancel my subscription as I'm finding that I can't really afford to keep it going. I'll probably replace it with a Freeview HD box."
Asking for new services is one thing but the biggest bargaining chip consumers have, and the one most often used in negotiations, is cancelling altogether.
Customer service staff are usually only authorised to 'give away' a certain amount in terms of new deals for existing customers.
If what they're offering doesn't float your boat then you'll be better off being passed to customer retentions', corporate mumbo jumbo for cancellations.
The guys and girls in cancellations can potentially give you a much better deal as their job is entirely focused around, you've guessed it, retaining customers who want to cancel.
However, it seems that often how successful you are can depend on who you speak to, what time of day it is (because each member of retentions staff is given a daily discount budget) and perhaps even what mood they may be in.
The problem: deal or no deal?
Once you've outlined your situation the agent may well offer you a reduced monthly rate, free channel package, broadband upgrade or similar deal.
A popular Sky gambit is to reduce the cost of its TV packages by half for six months.
At this point the whole scenario can get a bit Deal or no Deal.
It's up to you to decide whether the offer on the table is one you are happy with or whether to gamble, snub the offer and try to squeeze a little more value out of the adviser on the other end of the phone.
In one case we've seen, a Sky+ HD customer rang the call centre to explain that they were finding their subscription to be a struggle financially and would therefore like to remove the HD and movie package from the monthly bill.
"No problem," the agent said. "That's been cancelled for you."
But, hanging up, the customer felt hard done by: she'd heard reports of six months half price deals being dished out left, right and centre.
Five minutes later, she called back to say that she had decided to cancel the whole package. Right on cue she was offered six months half price, including the HD and movie packages that had been cancelled on the previous call.
Sky, with their many bundle options, are best known for offering deals.
However, that doesn't mean that other TV, broadband and phone providers aren't all doing the same thing.
Virgin Media also have a big retentions department and even smaller providers like Plusnet, Be and O2 have been known to dangle a carrot in front of an equivocal customer's nose.
No deal: what next?
Finally, sometimes the best way to save money is to stop threatening and actually cancel.
The bonus is that new customers have great offers handed to them on a plate rather than having to earn them through hard fought negotiation.
Am I a new customer?
Be careful, though, providers are no fools and they have rules on what constitutes a 'new' customer designed to stop 'cancel and resign' deal grabbers.
With Virgin Media and Sky, for example, you have to leave for at least a year to get new customer deals: get more detail on these rules in our full guide.
The best special offers
That being the case, it might be worth considering another provider, especially if they happen to have good offers which will make them cheaper for the first year or give you access to premium services for less.
Here are the current special offers for the big providers:
|Save up to £326 on Virgin collections||Sign up here for one of Virgin Media's pre-made bundles for this offer:
Starter save £60,
Essential save £78,
Essential Family save £117,
Premier save £162
or VIP save £326.
|Save up to £57 on Virgin TV||Sign up for Virgin Media TV with a Virgin phone line for this offer here|
|Free installation worth £49.95||Sign up for Virgin Media TV, broadband and phone for free setup worth £49.95 here|
|£100 M&S or Tesco voucher with Sky TV
ends 16 Mar 2014
|Sign up to any Sky TV bundle for this offer here (available from 10 Mar 2014)|
|25% off Sky TV for 12 months||Sign up to any Sky TV bundle for this offer here|
|£25 Sainsbury's Gift Card||Sign up for BT broadband online to get this offer here|
You can also check out our guide to comparing BT, Sky and Virgin Media TV for help.
Budget providers also have a lot of offers for new customers, especially price cuts in the first few months to a year after switching. See those deals, plus more information on providers, in our guide to the cheapest providers which is here.
You can also check out the latest offers from all the providers in the search tool below:
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